Olympic Women’s 400 — No Dive Required

Unlike Rio, where she crossed the line semi-horizontal, Shaunae Miller-Uibo strode tall across the line this time. (ANDREW McCLANAHAN/PHOTO RUN)

BECOMING THE SECOND WOMAN to successfully defend an Olympic 400 gold did not come easy for Shaunae Miller-Uibo. The Rio champion — who had often talked about wanting to attempt a 200/400 double here — lined up for the 400 after a rather disastrous appearance in the half-lap, troubled by a variety of minor injuries.

Yet when the gun sounded for the 1-lap final, the Bahamian put together one of the most dominating races in Games history to capture gold in a world-leading 48.36.

In the 200, Miller-Uibo had drawn lane 9 in the final, and appeared to run a hard turn before easing up over the last half to finish dead last. She told a Bahamian newspaper, “I felt my hamstring so I decided to shut it down, but hopefully I’m good.”

The next day in the 400 semis she appeared to be back to form, cruising a 49.60 to win the second race. Her prime challenge looked to come from the winner of the first, Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic, who had scored an NR 49.38, and the winner of the last, Jamaican Stephenie Ann McPherson, whose PR 49.34 put her well ahead of the 49.89 season best for American vet Allyson Felix.

Miller-Uibo told reporters after the semi that the hamstring that had flared up in the 200 was no longer a problem (“it released up”) but that her knee was the concern. “We’re battling through a lot right now, but we’re getting through it.”

For the Friday evening final the stadium felt the first hint of a cooling breeze in advance of a tropical depression working its way toward Tokyo. SMU stood tall in lane 7, her vivid pink hair matching the tape around her right knee. Paulino was in 5, McPherson in 6. Felix was relegated to 9; when the introductions came she barely managed a smile; nothing but game face.

At the start, the only woman who broke the line of the stagger was McPherson, who got out fast. Coming off the first turn, she had a clear lead on the field. Miller-Uibo seemed in no hurry. Indeed, nothing she did in the first half of the race gave any indication that she would win, let alone churn out the fastest race of her life. McPherson and Brit Jodie Williams led at 23.4, with SMU and Felix a 10th behind.

But when she hit the 200, the long-striding 27-year-old turned it up. All the way. She erased McPherson’s lead in just a few steps, before the end of the turn making up the stagger on Williams in lane 8 as well as Felix; by the time she passed 300 in 35.4, 0.3 up on Felix, 0.6 on Paulino and McPherson, the race for gold was over.

Miller-Uibo moved with the power of a runaway train and none of her competitors could respond as she powered her way to the finish in 48.36, a new North American Record, improving her hold on No. 6 all-time by 0.01.

Behind the champion, Paulino finished best. After her, a tiring McPherson battled her way past Williams but could not catch the determined drive of Felix. Paulino’s silver effort took 49.20, another NR; Felix won her historic bronze with a 49.46, just 0.20 off her PR with her second-best time ever.

McPherson finished a distraught 4th in 49.61, as Jamaica’s Candice McLeod (49.87) caught Williams (49.97). OT winner Quanera Hayes was the final finisher in 50.88. (The third American, Wadeline Jonathas, had been unable to get out of her semi.)

“I’m so happy right now I could cry,” said Miller-Uibo, the first to manage the defense since France’s Marie-José Pérec in ’96. “I’ve been dealing with a whole lot of injuries and to be able to pull this one off is amazing.”

Paulino, who had also won silver as part of the mixed 4×4, and is in her first year of full-time concentration on the sport, said, “It’s a real miracle, because a person who has had only one year in this event cannot achieve this.”

Felix surprised many with her bronze. It is the tenth medal of her career, the most of any female trackster in the history of the Games. At 35, she is also the oldest U.S. women’s medalist ever. Having made a podium in 5 straight Olympics, she said this one was different: “It was much bigger than running. It was much more than just whatever the clock showed. It was the fight to get back, it was proving to myself that I could get back, it was getting over all that adversity to get here.”


WOMEN’S 400 RESULTS

(August 06) (temperature 84F/29C; humidity 78%)

1. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bah) 48.36 NR (WL) (6, 10 W)

(23.5, 11.9 [35.4], 13.0) (23.5/24.9)

2. Marileidy Paulino (DR) 49.20 NR

(23.7, 12.3 [36.0], 13.2) (23.7/25.5);

3. Allyson Felix (US) 49.46 (AL)

(23.5, 12.2 [35.7], 13.8) (23.5/26.0);

4. Stephenie Ann McPherson (Jam) 49.61

(23.4, 12.6 [36.0], 13.6) (23.4/26.2);

5. Candice McLeod (Jam) 49.87

(23.9, 12.6 [36.5], 13.4) (23.9/26.0);

6. Jodie Williams (GB) 49.97 =PR

(23.4, 12.4 [35.8], 14.2) (23.4/26.6);

7. Quanera Hayes (US) 50.88

(25.0, 12.6 [37.6], 13.3) (25.0/25.9);

… dnf—Roxana Gómez (Cub).

(lanes: 2. Hayes; 3. Gomez; 4. McLeod; 5. Paulino; 6. McPherson; 7. Miller-Uibo; 8. Williams; 9. Felix)

(reaction times: Williams 0.127, McPherson 0.131, McLeod 0.152, Felix 0.158, Miller-Uibo 0.162, Paulino & Hayes 0.176, Gomez 0.191)

HEATS (August 03)

I–1. Miller-Uibo 50.50; 2. Gómez 50.76 =PR; 3. Sada Williams (Bar) 51.36; 4. Aliyah Abrams (Guy) 51.44; 5. Kyra Constantine (Can) 51.69; 6. Anita Horvat (Slo) 52.34; 7. Patience George (Ngr) 52.41.

II–1. Williams 50.99; 2. Hayes 51.07; 3. Cátia Azevedo (Por) 51.26; 4. Lisanne de Witte (Neth) 51.68; 5. Bendere Oboya (Aus) 52.37, Aliya Khattab Omar Boshnak (Jor);… dnf—Meleni Rodney (Grn), Amantle Montsho (Bot).

III–1. Felix 50.84; 2. Roneisha McGregor (Jam) 51.14; 3. Lada Vondrová (CzR) 51.14 PR; 4. Ama Pipi (GB) 51.17; 5. Tiffani da Silva (Bra) 52.11; 6. Leni Shida (Uga) 52.48; 7. Sam Dirks (Blz) 54.16; 8. Tetyana Melnyk (Ukr) 54.99.

IV–1. McLeod 51.09; 2. Amandine Brossier (Fra) 51.65; 3. Susanne Walli (Aut) 52.19; 4. Corinna Schwab (Ger) 52.29; 5. Iríni Vasilíou (Gre) 53.16; 6. Moroko Galefele (Bot) 55.89;… dq—Nicole Yeargin (GB).

V–1. McPherson 50.89; 2. Natalia Kaczmarek (Pol) 51.06; 3. Paola Morán (Mex) 51.18; 4. Phil Healy (Ire) 51.98; 5. Hellen Syombua (Ken) 52.70; 6. Agnė Šerkšnienė (Lit) 52.78; 7. Natassha McDonald (Can) 53.54.

VI–1. Paulino 50.06 (fastest-ever first round of 3); 2. Wadeline Jonathas (US) 50.93; 3. Lieke Klaver (Neth) 51.37; 4. Aauri Lorena Bokesa (Spa) 51.89; 5. Eleni Artymata (Cyp) 51.91; 6. Barbora Malíková (CzR) 52.83; 7. Shalysa Wray (Cay) 53.61 PR; 8. Christine Botlogetswe (Bot) 53.99.

SEMIS (August 04)

I–1. Paulino 49.38 NR; 2. McLeod 49.51 PR; 3. Gómez 49.71 PR; 4. Hayes 49.81; 5. Artymata 50.80 NR; 6. Walli 51.52 PR; 7. Pipi 51.59; 8. Vondrová 51.62.

II–1. Miller-Uibo 49.60; 2. Williams 49.97 PR; 3. McGregor 50.34; 4. Jonathas 50.51; 5. Morán 51.06; 6. Klaver 51.37; 7. Abrams 51.46; 8. Bokesa 51.57

Subscription Options

Monthly Subscription
(Digital Only)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$7.95 every month (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Digital Only)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$79.00 every year (recurring)

Monthly Premium Archive
(Digital Only)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$12.95 every month (recurring)

Annual Premium Archive
(Digital Only)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$128.00 every year (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Digital + Print)

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$109.00 USA every year (recurring)
$157.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$207.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Annual Premium Archive
(Digital + Print)

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$158.00 USA every year (recurring)
$206.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$256.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Annual Subscription
(Print Only)

  • 12 Monthly Print Issues
  • Does not include online access or eTrack Results Newsletter

$79.00 USA every year (recurring)
$127.00 Canada every year (recurring)
$177.00 Foreign every year (recurring)

Track Coach
(Digital Only)

  • Track Coach Quarterly Technique Journal
  • Access to Track Coach Archived Issues

Note: Track Coach is included with all Track & Field News digital subscriptions. If you are a current T&FN subscriber, purchase of a Track Coach subscription will terminate your existing T&FN subscription and change your access level to Track Coach content only. Track & Field News print only subscribers will need to upgrade to a T&FN subscription level that includes digital access to read Track Coach issues and articles online.

$19.95 every year (recurring)